McDonald’s has had its share of customer complaints in recent months. Rude treatment by employees, long waits at the counter and drive-thru window and botched rollouts of new menu items were tarnishing one of the world’s most recognizable brands. In an April corporate meeting, the message was made clear by one executive: “Service is broken.”
The company's response could serve as a case study in using customer criticism as a basis for a brand-building PR campaign.
First, McDonald's listened to its customers. The company is making a number of adjustments to its 2014 business plan. Money originally targeted for restaurant remodeling will instead be invested in better food preparation tables to accommodate new products with more ingredients. Employee training will also be increased and enhanced.
Second, McDonald's opened up the lines of communications with its customers. The company will implement a new customer feedback system in all 14,000 U.S. restaurants that will funnel complaints directly to the restaurants to better address problems.
Third, and this is a big one, McDonald's was public and candid about the problem and what they are doing to fix it. Rather than hiding behind a wall of secrecy, company executives spoke openly with the press, even going so far as to share the details of their meeting with franchisees about the issue. Stories in The Wall Street Journal and on NBC News featured interviews with top people at the company.
The takeaways for corporate communicators from how McDonald's faced its challenges are simple: Listen, learn, take action and keep them engaged.
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